Seeing red about the “Pinkalicious” series
Purplicious. Story by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann. Pictures by Victoria Kann. HarperCollins, 32 pp., $16.99. Ages 4 and up.
By Janice Harayda
A reviewer for the American Library Association’s Booklist magazine said diplomatically that the art for Pinkalicious “won’t win any awards.” And a critic for School Library Journal showed a similar gift for understatement when she said that the title character can be “a bit obnoxious.” But the character known as Pinkalicious has inspired a New York show, Pinkalicious: The Musical. And the first book about her became a bestseller, aided by the pink-cupcake parties that the publisher urges parents to hold in her honor. What’s going on?
Pinkalicious is a young school-age girl with fixation on pink that borders on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In Pinkalicious she ate so many pink cupcakes that her skin and hair turned pink, then returned to normal after her doctor prescribed eating green vegetables. That premise might have seemed iffy enough in a book likely to reach many children who have a shaky grasp on biological cause-and-effect. But Pinkalicious and her companions were also so nasty, they set off a flurry of complaints on Amazon.com and elsewhere. And they clearly didn’t go to charm school before the sequel appeared.
In Purplicious, Pinkalicious cries into her pink hankie when her classmates taunt her about her love of pink. But she eventually makes a friend named Purplicious who decides that “Pink is powerful” after learning that she can change the color of a blue cake to purple by adding pink to the paint.
The problem with all of this isn’t really the stereotypical love of pink, though that alone might give some parents pause. A lot of preschoolers – and their older sisters – do love pink. And the creators of the series try to subvert the stereotype by having Pinkalicious’s classmates favor black, so that she’s the oddball.
The problem is partly that in Purplicious, Pinkalicious’s love of pink expresses itself, in part, in a rampant consumerism. Pinkalicious has “more than a hundred pink possessions” in her pink room: “I had a pink phone, a pink crayon, a pink piggy bank, pink underwear, a pink tiara, even a giant pink bunny.” She also sounds as though she’s competing in Junie B. Jones impersonation contest. She’s rude to her parents and brother and doesn’t apologize. And her friends are worse. “Pink is putrid,” one tells her. “Yeah, pink stinks!” adds another.
A more imaginative author – say, Rosemary Wells or Babette Cole – could have spun a girl’s fascination with pink into a witty fantasy without any of the meanness or commercialism. Another illustrator could have served up better art than Victoria Kann’s flat, digitized pictures of big-headed characters with bland features As it is, Pinkalicious is less an engaging character than an emerging brand. How long do you think it will take before some of her “hundred pink possessions” start showing up in stores?
Best line: None
Worst line: A typical line of dialogue: “Eww, it’s sooooo ugly.”
Published: 2007 www.elizabethkann.com
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.